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According to Merriam-Webster, philanthropy means promoting goodwill to members of the human race. This is done through donations of money, time or goods. When we think of philanthropy, we think of wealthy people donating thousands (or millions) of dollars to a cause, such as purchasing vaccines for third-world countries or building homes for the less fortunate. Aside from charities and non-profit organizations, philanthropy also includes academic funding and technological research. However, for children, the term doesn’t hold as much meaning. They are aware of helping others, but do they understand it is philanthropy?

To help children truly understand the meaning of philanthropy, parents must take the time to educate their children about what it is and its impact on society. They can associate words with it, such as donating, charities, funding, community and volunteering. It’s important to teach children about philanthropy at an early age (e.g. toddlers), so they understand its core values and bestow them to their own children. Below are some ways to teach philanthropy to your children.

  1. Set an example. As parents, children are aware of what we do and the ways we accomplish goals. It is important to bring attention to donating charitably and that you are able to donate. You can also show them the good that comes from volunteering and/or donating materials first hand by participating in fundraisers or charity walks/runs. Also, parents should encourage their children to explore ways to be philanthropic.
  2. Ways to give. There are many ways to be philanthropic. Helping others can include volunteering at a charity or non-profit, setting up a donation box at your child’s school (with permission) and offering to help others in need (e.g. babysitting or delivering meals).
  3. Hold family discussions about groups or charities. When you set aside time to discuss non-profit groups or charities, your children will become used to the topic and even look forward to contributing. Introduce your children to your community and what its needs are. This involvement will not only help them socially, it will also teach them about finances, compassion and leadership. Your children will see how businesses and people come together for a great cause. Thus, they will take pride in their community and what they achieved.
  4. Acts of kindness. Teaching your children to be generous also instills in them the need to be kind. Performing small acts of kindness puts smiles on those who need a helping hand. There are so many acts that can be done, including creating a card, donating a toy during the holidays or visiting a lonely neighbor.